I almost feel like I shouldn’t say this out loud, for fear of jinxing it. But I’m not a superstitious person, so I’ll do it:
It’s starting to seem like we may be emerging. Slowly, cautiously, emerging.
(At least in the US, where 43% of adults are now fully vaccinated. But I would be remiss in not acknowledging that in some parts of the world, things are only getting worse. This isn’t over, by any stretch of the word. And if you can help, here’s a curated list of ways to do it.)
One of my book clubs will be reconvening for our next meeting, in person. We haven’t seen each other in the flesh since February 2020. And this can only happen because everyone is vaccinated. It’s welcome, but it’s also a bit jarring.
We’ve been entombed for so long. What is the world going to look like from the outside looking in, instead of the inside looking out?
But here’s one thing I know for sure. There’s no going “back to normal”. Things have irreversibly changed. There’s no “back” to go to. We will have to find a “new normal” (even though that phrase is more than a little cringy at this point).
And then we’ll have to find it again.
We’re in transition and this is a process. “There is no “there” there (and Gertrude Stein could not have anticipated what those words would mean to us now).
“Communicate, experiment, iterate, repeat.” It’s been my COVID mantra, and it doesn’t stop here.
There’s been so much that has been obviously horrendous about the year and a half. But if there’s a silver lining, it’s that we’ve had the chance to reevaluate our pre-COVID lives. And I don’t think I know anyone that wants things to go “back to normal”, exactly as it was before, even if that were possible.
BUT, sometimes it’s easier to define what we don’t want and it can be really overwhelming to figure what what we DO want going forward, especially when the options aren’t crystal clear.
A year from now, do you really want to be staring down a Saturday filled with 3 children’s birthday parties (for kids your kids aren’t even friends with) and a trip to Costco? I know I don’t. So let’s take a moment to figure out what we do want, so we don’t go hurtling back into the throes of life unintentionally.
Grab a framework (here, I’ll give you one!)
You know I’m a big fan of simple frameworks, and I think when we’re staring out at the unknown it makes us feel safer to put some structure around our thoughts.
So, before you’re fully back in the world, how about another round of Keep, Stop, (Re)start?
Here’s how to play: Grab a piece of paper (or print this one) and do a little brainstorm in the following 3 categories. Don’t think about the how (yet); just think about the what. You want the vision first, then you can figure out the plan.:
- What do you want to continue doing, even when you can freely leave the house?
- What’s working really well for you? For your family? Right now. That you don’t want to give up.
- What are you relieved to have been missing during the last year?
- What are you NOT looking forward to when you can freely go about your life again?
- What did you used to do, pre-COVID, that you wish you never had to do again?
- What do you want to start doing again?
- What have you been missing from the “real world”?
- What have you been waited for, with bated breath?
It’s hard to start with a blank slate, so I’ll get you started. Here are some categories you can think about:
Going back to an office
Do you want to return to the office? Even when it’s possible? Or would you prefer to stay working at home? Lots of employers have been surveying employees and the data is showing that most people are not looking forward to 5 days a week in the office. Lots of folks think once or twice a week might be just fine. What about you?
Have you enjoyed the lack of scheduled activities on the weekend? Going forward, do you want your weekends filled, or with a little more breathing room? Maybe you’d like to keep one weekend day per week free of plans, or one weekend a month. What’s your ideal if you could choose? Because you can.
Socializing with far flung folks
Once physical location ceased to matter, many of us began socializing more with people who no longer live near us using Zoom, and the phone. College friends, family in other states, etc. Will you continue to make room for this going forward? Or will proximity dictate your social life?
If you live with others, I’m willing to bet you’ve been eating more meals together over the last year than you did in the past. Do you want to figure out a way to keep doing that? Or are you sick of each other? 🙂
Are you looking forward to eating indoors, as restaurants again? The buzz of crowded bars? Or have you found their absence to be barely a blip, something you (and your budget) would rather do without?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been doing a lot of hiking over the past year. If you’ve been hanging out with friends, it’s likely been outside. How’s that working for you? Are you going to be out in nature more or less once it isn’t the only option?
Does paying $15 to sit in a dark room with strangers, all enjoying the same thing, laughing or being scared in unison, sound fantastic? Or is your home movie watching setup so good now that you’ll never opt for sticky floors and loud talkers again?
Pre-pandemic, I was convinced that I was the only one who could properly select my own produce. Now, I’m not so sure I’ll ever go grocery shopping in person again (unless it’s to the farmer’s market, which I totally miss). What about you?
You know what? I didn’t get a single cold this winter. Neither did my kids. This was the first year of no runny noses in the 12 years I’ve been a parent.
So for me, masks are staying. In what capacity remains to be seen.
But first, I’ll be wearing masks until there is true herd immunity, regardless of vaccination status. (And I certainly hope you will, too.)
And then, I’ll be wearing them in a number of circumstances going forward: on public transit or other crowded spaced in winter and anytime I’m a little sick in public, to protect others.